Matchbin Brings Web 2.0 Services to the Boonies

Matchbin, a venture-backed firm based in Bountiful, Utah, is banking on aggregating rural and exurban audiences by providing community media companies with a full slate of advertising and social tools, rather than just one-dimensional local search.

The six-year-old, 40-person company, settled on its current strategy during a relaunch in January 2008, and now has 315 affiliate titles, adding 20 to 25 more per month. In 2009 it projects revenues of $2.5 million, up from $800,000 in 2008.

The majority of Matchbin’s affiliates are weekly community papers, but the company also has TV and radio stations, as well as some newspapers. Major competitors include TownNews, which is principally owned by Lee Enterprises; Ellington; Local.com’s Local Connect service (formerly PremierGuide); and The Digital Press Consortium.

CEO Reed Brown says most of its affiliates haven’t really had a Web strategy before, so they tend to have an immediate jump in sales when they sign on. Out of the gate, they’re making $10,000 to $20,000 per week, he says. It adds up. A six-paper chain in Southwest Montana pulled in $350,000 last year. Wichita, Kansas-based Fetchtoto.com earned $250,000 in five months.

The site provides its partners with everything from classifieds to reviews, but the heart of the service is definitely its business directory, says Brown. He believes some customers in smaller communities aren’t necessarily ready to buy search, but they will take a rich Content Management System (CMS) package that includes search among directory, classifieds and other services.

Brown adds that the company, which licenses Localeze listings, now has 25,000 claimed pages, with 2,000 customers taking a premium package ranging from $150 to $750 for a standard package, or $440 to $1,500 for a multimedia solution. Recently, the company added a mobile component, hooking up with Verve Wireless for mobile coupons.

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